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And what about the upper house

By Peter Baume - posted Friday, 18 March 2011

The Legislative Council is part of the New South Wales Parliament. There will be 21 Councilors elected on March 26th, and nothing will become law until any measure has passed that Council.. A majority is 22 and at present there are 19 Labor Councilors (but the Labor President does net have a deliberative vote), 15 Liberal and National Party Councilors, 4 Green Councilors, 2 Shooters' and Fishers' Councilors and 1 for Fred Nile and for Family First. Ten Labor and 7 coalition Councilors come out at this election, as do 2 Greens, 1 Shooters' and Fishers' Councilor and the Family First Councilor.

For the Legislative Assembly the voting is by constituency, each of which elects a single member. There are 93 seats (about 69.000 voters each) and the majority figure is 47. Government goes to the party getting a majority in the Legislative Assembly irrespective of what happens in the Legislative Council.

All Assembly members come out at this election, unlike the Legislative Council in which only half come out. At present Labor has 50 seats, Independent Labor 1, the Liberals 24, the Nationals 13 and independents 5 (Bligh, Port Macquarie, Tamworth, Dubbo, Northern Tablelands - the member for the latter seat being Speaker).


There is optional preferential voting in New South Wales and a majority of voters is sometimes difficult to achieve as votes get "exhausted" if preferences have not been recorded. If that happens, those who have allotted preferences exert more influence on the outcome.

The electoral pendulum suggests that he first seats to fall seem to be Miranda, Menai, Wollondilly, Balmain, Camden, the Entrance and Gosford. The pendulum shows that if the coalition wins 5 seats, and if Balmain goes to the Greens, we have a hung parliament. If that happens it will be Verity Firth who loses that Balmain seat. if she holds on, then one more seat is needed for a hung parliament.

To govern in its own right, the Coalition would need to win 10 Assembly seats. To those seats already listed add Monaro, Wyong, Londonderry Coogee, and the next seat is Marrickville - Carmel Tebbut's seat - which could also go to the Greens - and Drummoyne.

A quite major swing of 8%, historically beyond most oppositions, is needed for the Opposition to win the seats required to form government. But opinion polls have been showing consistently that the Coalition is doing very well and Labor is doing very badly. Lately the Coalition is leading Labor by 64 to 36% and it is suggested by some that Labor will win only 16 seats. It is hard to believe that those figures will be repeated on election day. It is not that voters are excited by the Coalition; it is that they are sick of the Labor Government.

A large number of Labor Parliamentarians and staffers have announced already that they are going. In fact, twenty five members of the assembly, most of them Labor have announced their retirement already,

The Premier is conducting as good a retreat as seems possible under the circumstances. Barry O'Farrell, for his part, is not saying very much at all. He is making himself a small target - the tide is running strongly with him and he might not have to say too much to win the election.


Opinion polls often move closer together as the election approaches. So far it seems not to have happened in NSW. Of course it might happen in the last few days of the campaign.

There seems to be a major swing on in New South Wales. It is possible that many marginal Liberal candidates who did not expect electoral success will enter Parliament. They say "winners are grinners" and big winners might even want to smile. But a small majority makes for a very disciplined parliamentary team. A large majority makes for a more fractious backbench and activities will have to be found to keep new members busy. So committees will probably be used more, if for no other reason than that is one way to channel the energy of ambitious back-benchers into productive enterprises. Of course that gives the Leader the opportunity to watch for promising people to emerge. Another danger is the highly factionalised nature of the Liberal Party in New South Wales. Some people not of O'Farrell's view will most likely enter Parliament and might wish to continue factional fights there. So far, there has been little factional nonsense in the Parliament. O'Farrell has to placate the dominant right wing of the party at the same time as he tries to communicate with the electorate. The problem is that they want to hear different things. The other danger for O'Farrell will be in the composition of his front bench. When he selects a team there will be a lot of disgruntled and disappointed local members left and there might be some disgruntled people in the Parties' organisations. If we assume that the voters will re-elect the various independents does O'Farrell continue to have one of them as Speaker. He probably will - and that will add to the disappointment of some ambitious people.

If we look at the team O'Farrell has, there are some who stand out. Mike Baird is probably good. So is Gladys Berejiklian. After that there are problems. Gallagher is said to be good. Greg Smith is regarded as competent but extreme - and he might be selecting and recommending new judges for the new government. The National Party is likely to provide a couple of good ministers and there will be two or three unexpected great successes among the more junior ministers. But a lot of the Parliamentary Coalition Parties are untried and the decision by O'Farrell to prefer the existing shadow ministers will buy him a few months of grace.

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About the Author

Professor Peter Baume is a former Australian politician. Baume was Professor of Community Medicine at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) from 1991 to 2000 and studied euthanasia, drug policy and evaluation. Since 2000, he has been an honorary research associate with the Social Policy Research Centre at UNSW. He was Chancellor of the Australian National University from 1994 to 2006. He has also been Commissioner of the Australian Law Reform Commission, Deputy Chair of the Australian National Council on AIDS and Foundation Chair of the Australian Sports Drug Agency. He was appointed a director of Sydney Water in 1998. Baume was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia in January 1992 in recognition of service to the Australian Parliament and upgraded to Companion in the 2008 Queen's Birthday Honours List. He received an honorary doctorate from the Australian National University in December 2004. He is also patron of The National Forum, publisher of On Line Opinion.

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